In his book Invisibles: Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Workplace, David Zweig pulls the “Invisibles” — skilled professionals who, the better they do their jobs, the more they fade into the background — out into the limelight. He profiles a number of Invisibles, from a wayfinding expert to an elite interpreter at the United Nations. Rather than seeking external recognition, Zweig says, Invisibles find fulfillment in the challenges of their work and in exceptional execution. They embody three traits: 1) ambivalence toward recognition, 2) meticulousness, and 3) savoring of responsibility. (Sounds like a lot of meeting professionals, no?) Zweig writes:
What makes Invisibles so captivating is that they are achieving enviable levels of fulfillment from their work, yet their approach is nearly antithetical to that of our culture at large.
You may ask, given that the vast majority of us work in obscurity, wouldn’t nearly all of us be considered Invisibles? But [this book] is not about thankless, mundane jobs. Invisibles, as I define them, are highly skilled, and people whose roles are critical to whatever enterprise they are a part of. And in contrast to America’s working poor or the laborers of developing-world factory floors toiling in anonymity, Invisibles are often highly successful and recognized by, indeed deeply respected among, their co-workers for their expertise and performance. What’s remarkable is that, despite generally having had the means to pursue other careers, Invisibles have chosen, or fallen into and then decided to stay in, careers that accord them no outward recognition from the end user. This is defiantly in opposition to the accolades, or even just pats on the back, most of us so desire. And yet — Invisibles are an exceptionally satisfied lot.
Excerpted from Invisibles: Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Workplace, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © David Zweig, 2014, 2015.